We've heard that rising food prices are here to stay, and we've recently learned that about a third of the food grown for humans–globally–is going to waste. It's summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and for many of us that means buying produce by the armful at farmer's markets.
How horrible a feeling is it, then, to spend your money on beautiful, fresh, local fruits and vegetables only to have them go to waste in your own kitchen? Despite the best intentions, it's easy for this to happen. So what can you do about it?
Well, in addition to making sure your don't buy more than you can reasonably consume within the week, knowing the proper way to store your produce can make a huge difference. Below are some tips to help you make the most of your "harvest."
Store in Your Refrigerator's Crisper
Best in a plastic bag: apples, cut cantaloupe, cherries, grapes, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower*, endive, leeks, leafy greens, lettuce, green onions, parsnips, peas*, radicchio, radish, salad mixes, spinach, sweet corn (husk on)
Other: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mushrooms
Store in the Warmest Part of the Refrigerator (45-50F)
Best in a plastic bag: cut honeydew melon, snap beans, cut cucumber, eggplant, okra, chili peppers, summer squash, sweet peppers
Store in a Dry, Cool Place (55-60F)
garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, uncut melons, tomatoes
Apricots, Nectarines Peaches, Pears, Plums
Store in paper bags at room temperature until they reach desired softness. Store ripened fruits in refrigerator crisper. Best used one-to-two days after ripened.
Cherries and Berries
Store in a shallow bowl covered with paper towels, then plastic wrap. Use quickly.
Refrigerate in open container to allow for air to circulate; cover with damp paper towel.
Keep these Foods Separate
These produce a lot of ethylene gas: apples, cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches, pears, plums, ripe tomatoes.
These are sensitive to ethylene gas: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, endive, green beans, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon.
Don't store produce from the two categories together.
Heifer project participants, like Charles Opolot and Hellen Adek of Uganda, are making efforts to reduce their food waste. Let's try to do the same.
Know some other helpful tips to cutting back personal food waste? Add them in the comments section.
Information adapted from "Shopping Farmers Marktes in Arkansas," a brochure created by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Food Policy Council.